What would I do without an anime series or two every season to use as an escape from the professional world of reading and analyzing and processing god damn legal documents all day? I don’t know, so I’m thankful that I have still another such anime in the currently airing Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible / Kubo-san wa Mob wo Yurusanai. This is one of the latest manga-to-anime adaptations in the subgenre of odd couple slow-burn school/university romances. If that’s not an established subgenre now, it should be, because see also Takagi-san, Uzaki-chan, Nagatoro,* Bisque Doll, and plenty of others I haven’t watched yet.
The story this time centers on two high school students, starting with male lead Junta Shiraishi. Junta is remarkable in exactly one way: he so lacks presence that people regularly don’t notice when he’s around, even when he’s right next to them or standing in front of them. The poor boy isn’t merely a wallflower — he is quite literally invisible to others until he projects his voice and/or gesticulates enough that he gets noticed. This causes Junta some obvious problems with getting recorded in the class attendance rolls, and though his classmates don’t think poorly of him, he doesn’t really have any friends either.
One day, however, Junta meets a classmate who can see him. Nagisa Kubo occupies the seat next to him in the back of their homeroom class (as usual, it’s always either the back row or the second to third to the back next to the window.) Nagisa knows Junta is practically invisible to the rest of the world thanks to his lack of presence, and starting from the first episode, she challenges him to try to test those limits and to stand out in various ways. Junta isn’t crazy about putting himself out there after a lifetime of blending into the background, but Nagisa has a strange sort of hold on him that he can’t explain. I wonder — it couldn’t be that he’s falling for her, could it? No, that can’t be it.
Kubo-san is just three episodes in right now, but I can already tell what direction it’s taking. The romance takes off almost immediately, with a few perspective switches to Nagisa in which she pretty much all but confirms that she’s crushing on the plain self-described NPC Junta. Given that she’s a top student and a popular figure at their school, whereas Junta is Junta, we might wonder what it is about the guy that attracted her. Junta might wonder that as well, since it hasn’t yet crossed his mind that she’s into him, though in usual form for this subgenre he seems to share her feelings without really realizing it.
But while Junta seems unremarkable in every way aside from his relative invisibility, he’s already shown himself to be a conscientious and at least kind of intelligent guy. And anyway, who gets to decide what the heart wants? The heart decides that for itself, and though it sometimes makes stupid fucking decisions without consulting the head, I wouldn’t say that’s the case here barring a twist that Nagisa is secretly a yandere or something.
Of all the other series I’ve watched in this slow-burn odd couple romance subgenre or whatever I called it, Kubo-san feels by far the most like Teasing Master Takagi-san. Nagisa herself gives off strong Takagi vibes with her relatively light and playful teasing of Junta, though unlike his male lead counterpart Nishikata, Junta doesn’t feel the need to challenge Nagisa to battles of strength or wit to settle the score. Being older and more mature, it makes sense that he’d be a little cooler about Nagisa’s prodding, though he’s also naturally quite passive anyway.
I don’t have any further comments on Kubo-san at the moment except that it’s nice so far and I like it. This is the second Pine Jam production I’ve seen following last season’s Do It Yourself!!, and based on these two I have a positive impression of their work — neither show necessarily looks amazing, but the art styles are vibrant enough and suit their subjects, and I’ve heard the style in the Kubo-san anime is very faithful to the work of original manga writer/illustrator Nene Yukimori. I haven’t read the manga at all, but the anime gives me some of the warm feelings I got from three seasons of Takagi-san and that I’ll presumably get from the Takagi-san movie whenever it’s made available on our crap streaming services, and that’s certainly a good thing.
Speaking of, I’m watching Kubo-san on HIDIVE. After some of the bullshit Crunchyroll’s been putting us through, I’m feeling a lot more charitable towards HIDIVE these days, though it’s also far from perfect. But just a note in case you have an account with them that you can catch Kubo-san there. Based on the first three episodes, it’s worth a watch, and hopefully it will keep that quality up.
* Yes, I’m also watching the second season of Nagatoro, 2nd Attack. Nothing much to add about it so far except that yeah, it’s still good, and I will most likely be writing something about it at the end of the season because as much as I like the softer teasing of Kubo-san and Takagi-san, I also enjoy the slightly sharper edge we get with Nagatoro. But there’s my comment in case you thought I’ve forgotten about Hayase and her put-upon senpai Naoto: I haven’t!
I keep seeing this manga on the shelf at my local book shop and nearly buying it, because I’m a sucker for these sorts of cutesy adolescent romances. Didn’t realise there was an anime adaptation too!
I’m sure I’ll impulse buy/watch them one day… 🙂
I heard about the manga when the anime was announced. I like some of these kinds of series too (especially Takagi-san, might be why I took to Kubo-san so much) but there seem to be so many of them now that it can be hard to pick through them. Kubo-san is definitely a nice one to check out so far, and if the anime is as faithful to the manga as I’ve heard, then the manga’s probably good too.
You also reminded me that I need to find a better offline place to look for manga. All I have are the big bookstore chains — the comic book shops around here only sell western stuff, which I won’t put down at all, but that’s just not my thing.
I think that’s honestly why I have hesitated on buying some of them – there are so many now that it’s hard to set yourself apart. The eye-grabbing front cover of the first manga volume, and the generally adorable art, definitely has me tempted.
I’ve loved seeing how the manga section of mainstream bookstores has exploded over my life. I don’t know about you, but we have Waterstones here and they keep expanding their section. There’s also Forbidden Planet, too.
Over here we have Barnes & Noble and Books A Million — the latter has a better manga section I think, but both are respectable. I do wish I had a local place to trade used manga and shoot the breeze with like-minded people but apparently there just aren’t enough of us weebs around where I live for that, even though I live in a major metropolitan area.
I might pick up the manga after the anime ends, honestly, depending on how it turns out. The trouble is I feel I have to buy every existing volume, and then I like owning physical copies which can get a little expensive. Definitely beautiful covers, though. That artist knows her stuff.